Managers from across the EFL have paid tribute to Gareth Ainsworth on the Chairboys manager’s fifth anniversary in charge at Adams Park.
Longevity in football management can be hard to come by and Ian Holloway, John Still, Phil Brown and Neal Ardley have nothing but admiration for the progress made by Ainsworth during his time with Wycombe.
Still was Ainsworth’s first opponent in the dugout, leading his Dagenham & Redbridge to a 3-0 win against the Wanderers in September 2012, having also worked with Gareth towards the beginning of his playing career.
He said: “Gareth played for me when I was at Lincoln, and had an unbelievable attitude, and really worked his socks off. He went on to have a great career and switched over to managing.
“If anyone deserves everything they get for their hard work and dedication for the job they do, it’s him, but on top of that he’s a proper nice man and I can only heap praise on him. He’s had a fantastic five years – here’s looking forward to the next 35 years! Enjoy it, because you deserve it.”
Ian Holloway was another former manager of Ainsworth, with the pair earning legend status at QPR, and they too came head-to-head in the dugout when Holloway’s Millwall faced Wycombe in the League Cup in August 2014.
“The bloke’s amazing,” said Holloway. “He can do things that no-one believes he can do, and he makes other people believe the same in themselves. Nothing surprises me when it comes to Gareth. When he puts his mind to it, there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s so whole-hearted. He’s a credit to his mum and dad because he never gives in.
“He’s infectious and I’m not surprised at all that he’s having a great career. He’s doing really well for Wycombe and got a good thing going there.
“Gareth will inspire people around him. He gets the best out of people and I think he’s a massive gain for Wycombe, and I’m proud to know him and have worked with him. I congratulate him for reaching five years and wish them all the very best. They’ve been knocking on the door for a little while now and this might well be their year.”
That 2014/15 season culminated in a play-off final at Wembley, where Ainsworth and Southend boss Phil Brown stood side-by-side in a mark of dignified mutual respect as their players took part in the decisive penalty shoot-out, won by the Shrimpers.
“Gareth’s a great guy,” Brown said. “At Wembley we stood toe to toe during the penalties and I said to his chairman afterwards ‘you’ve got a good man there, stick with him’. You have to stick with good people and Gareth for me is one of the managers of the future. He’s cutting his teeth at the hardest level in my opinion, but he’s going great guns and long may that continue.”
Another manager often seen in warm embraces with Ainsworth on the touchline is AFC WWimbledon boss Neal Ardley, a former team-mate, and he too added his word of appreciation for the work Ainsworth has done:
"He's done amazingly. People don't see it, when you're trying to attract players to the club when you haven't got fortunes to spend. They're always a competitive team, and he's always got them up and around the play-offs. He's a very good manager - he's learning a lot as he goes along, he's a great character, really well-liked, and thoroughly deserves to be one of the longest-serving managers."